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EU Subsidy cut has had little impact on Sri Lankan garments - Government officials

by IRIN News

COLOMBO, 28 March 2011 (IRIN) - More than seven months after the European Union (EU) suspended its preferential trade agreement with Sri Lanka in protest over the country’s human rights record, the subsidy cut has had little impact on the sector targeted, according to government officials.

Many of the country’s 250,000 textile workers - who tend to work 12 hours a day, six days a week for a monthly salary of US$150 - had feared they would lose their jobs under the cut. But most are still employed.

IRIN328.jpg

The garment sector is a major component of the Sri Lankan economy~ pic: IRIN

"We are still doing good," Nilanthi Perera, 29, a garment worker from Colombo, told IRIN. She supports three younger brothers and is the breadwinner of the family - like many of her colleagues. “Any loss [of jobs] would have destroyed us."

For five years Sri Lanka received a 10 percent tax concession under the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences Plus scheme (GSP), and textiles account for 65 percent of the country’s exports, according to Central Bank data.

But the country failed to prove to the EU its commitment to three international human rights conventions - the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child - said Jehan Perera, director of Colombo-based think-tank the National Peace Council.

“The EU wanted to send an investigation team to the country to see for itself the situation [regarding alleged human rights violations] - but the government refused to let them in,” leading to suspension of the GSP concession.

“The government would have been concerned that permitting the EU investigation team in would set a precedent, and lead to more pressure on the issue of war crimes,” Perera said.

Sri Lanka has been resisting efforts by a UN Secretary-General’s expert panel to conduct an independent investigation into alleged war crimes during the 26-year conflict between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) which ended in May 2009.

Lost leverage?

The National Peace Council advocates a step-by-step process and was against the total removal of GSP concessions, according to Perera.

“The GSP Plus concessions should not have been fully suspended but should have been used for further leverage to push Sri Lanka to adhere to a human rights agenda. Now the EU has lost this leverage,” Perera said.

He said the EU should have set more achievable human rights goals and used the GSP concession issue as leverage. "Threats are more effective than the actual punishments in aid policy," he said.

"The GSP Plus suspensions did not have a negative impact on the Sri Lankan economy, exports and apparel industry," Tissa Vitharana, a senior government minister, said.

In fact, the textiles sector notched up nearly 6.5 percent in exports from 2009 to 2010, according to the Central Bank.

Foreign buyers are continuing to place orders for Sri Lankan garments due to their high quality, and timely and efficient delivery, according to Chamara Hettiarachi, a Colombo-based economist. He said the textile industry had maximized capacity by appropriate use of technology.

3 Comments

The statement is a single line. Its mostly an article of an interview by a Garment employee named Nilanthi perera.
This is the kind of media publicity used against Sri Lanka to deceive people.

This is what the west call, responsible free media

Posted by: dagobert | March 28, 2011 04:59 AM

This is a very good news for the "so called third" world! The West try to enslave third world countries and if they go against their decisions, they are destroyed in the name of Pseudo Human Rights which they never respect!

Posted by: Mandawala Hamuduruvo | March 28, 2011 11:13 AM

National Peace Council ‘Centre for Policy Alternatives’ and the Transparency International. All three NGOs are under investigation for misuse of funds right now.

Colonialist countries that drive EU policies have a long term agenda in Sri Lanka. They wanted to save LTTE and divide Sri Lanka for they know that is the only way they can establish their military bases here. Knowing the foul aims of the colonialists, not only India helped us destroy LTTE, but also helped us to beat baseless charges by them.

All three NGOs mentioned above are being sponsored by EU member countries or cohorts. Jehan and company have to prove their loyalty towards their sponsors if they are to get paid. Good serfs they are, they follow their masters’ voice. When they are told to jump, NGOs just ask, how high.

With the withdrawal of GSP plus concessions, the dirty lot thought, many a factory in Sri Lanka would close. And pundits predicted; chaos would follow, Rajapakse government would fall, LTTE would prevail and Sri Lanka will be divided. Read the Mirror achieves if you wanted to know what they had been hoping.

But, the GSP thing is not the only thing they did. They tried to stop temporary loan from banks first. Then the IMF loan as well. And that was while war was in progress. Need I repeat aims of the dirty lot once again?

Now, that Sri Lanka is at peace and developing fast colonialists are hell bent to destroy our tranquility and progress. So they bring about false allegations – war crimes.

Leela

Posted by: Leela | March 29, 2011 10:17 PM

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